Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday cheer

I may get depressed about the overall state of the church, but Sunday worship in our Parish even if it's tiring, usually lifts my spirits. I've got Chris Seaton, a ministerial student from St Michael's College Llandaff on placement with me for two terms. He started today. He's training as a minister in secular employment, supporting himself as an electrical engineer. He had fifteen years in the Merchant Navy, so he comes to ministry, with lots of life experience and a strong layman's faith still intact. It'll be great to have someone around who can see the situation through fresh eyes.

Over refreshments after the main Eucharist, I chatted to a man of retirement age who had attended the service and taken Communion. He turned out to be Orthodox, and had lived in the U.K. for most of his life (without ever losing his Greek accent). Normally, he attended St Nicholas Greek Church, just over the railway line, next to St Mary's Parish Church. But, for a change he'd decided to come to us.

He told me that he'd become acquainted with an older man - probably queuing in the shops in Canton - who was a Muslim. This man had quizzed him about Christianity, which had spurred him to acquire a Gospel text and a few other pamphlets from his church to offer the enquirer, who had been pleased to receive them, to help his exploration along. What did these two men have in common? Both spoke English with a foreign accent, had been born in another country and had settled here earlier in life. And that was sufficient for a little grass-roots interfaith dialogue to begin.

At the Tredegarville School Eucharist in the afternoon, churchwarden Jane made us smile. Since we've been worshipping in the school, Jane has started reading lessons regularly. In times past it had been only occasionally. As is often the case, the problem she has is not with reading as such - she's an avid reader - but reading confidently out loud. It's an acquired skill and needs lots of encouragement.

For the duration of my sick leave, Jane asked if she could have the Sunday readings in advance, both to print out for the others, and to practice. She ended up taking the leaflet into work - she's a baker and confectioner at Sainsburys - to ask advice on awkward pronunciations from one of her workmates, a Minister's wife. This led to her practising the readings in front of her colleagues during the tea-break to everyone's enjoyment. Now they're encouraging her to carry on practising at work. Who would have thought it?

Ah - the ways of the Spirit!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Meribah in Bethlehem

We had the annual diocesan conference this morning at a large evangelical church conference centre in the countryside north of Bridgend - Bethlehem Church Life Centre. It was a very plain and functional sort of place, like a big warehouse kitted out to support people events, but not terribly inspiring.

The reasons for choosing such a venue when we have some large church schools, not to mention a fine cathedral as possible meeting places is a mystery to me. The only positive reason wouold be relative ease of parking. The conference no longer spans morning and afternoon with a lunch intervening. I guess that saves money. Everything is packed in between 9.30 and 1.30, including the Eucharist.

It's not so much a conference these days, more a series of presentations with little time to reflect or discuss or interact. All three presentations suffered from the inadequate mastery of display technology meant to assist the speaker, rather than embarrass. The quality of the humour in the face of this adversity demonstrated that we didn't really need to be dazzled or irritated by gizmos anyway. Why bother?

It was sad, but inevitable that Barry our Bishop should want to apologise for being away on Anglican Communion business so much in this time of threatened schism, as a trusted broker on behalf of Archbishop Rowan. I was so glad to hear him praise the much maligned American church for its relief efforts in New Orleans. Their justice agenda is far broader than mere matters relating to sexuality. For a host of different reasons, everyone seems fed up about this seemingly intractable state of affairs. And it is having an impact on our life as a diocese, when so much change needs working on at a leadership level here at home. The diocese pays the price for Barry's external diplomatic role in every sense. It's wholly understandable that he should be asking the Province to re-consider the appointment of an Archbishop who is not also a diocesan Bishop, as happens in other parts of the Communion. We need to ask what this solution will do to deepen 'bonds of affection' between Wales and other Anglican Provinces that cannot be achieved by other means. The ratio of prelates per head of faithful members keeps increasing, as the church continues to shrink.

The annual report of the diocesan standing committee attracted just three formal questions. I'm afraid I lost my concentration until I was forced to sit up and take notice when Bob Capper, an outspoken evangelical critic of some current church leadership and policies, stood up and asked why the dissolution of the Rectorial Benefice of Central Cardiff had not been reported as discussed by the standing committee. He'd approached me beforehand and asked if I'd noticed. I said no, I didn't really care.

It turned out that for the sake of economising on paper, the standing committee published report was less than full, economising in its reportage. Bob was not quick enough to ask a supplementary question about editorial criteria used for assembling the report. I noticed that the closure of St James' was also not reported - a potentially major community development project failing for lack of support from church or city. Well, the morning's presentations highlighted inspiring community development successes. Nobody cares to take note of failures which could teach us how to avoid squandering time and energy on things that have no chance of success.

It was a cheerless airless artificially lit gathering. The sense of depression that haunted our clergy chapter meeting on Wednesday afternoon seemed also to lurk in this massive assembly of over two hundred people, clergy obliged to be there outnumbering lay representatives by two to one. Was it just me? Or was it to do with the design of the event leaving so little room for interaction and discussion that it seemed to be designed with only passive acceptance in mind? Have we got to the stage of fearing that free discussion will overturn the boat? Are we giving sufficient time to really examining, all together the way we operate? Or are we sliding fast into a culture of producers of consumers of religion?

There was a time when having a conference Eucharist in the place where all the business was done, the decisions were taken etc, seemed to have a certain incarnational relevance and quality to it. When we came to the Eucharist this morning I wished we could have moved somewhere with fresh air and beauty to commend it, that maybe might lift my spirits. It was nice to sing Taize music, together in worship, but even the ugly barn of a church in Taize is embellished by prayer and decoration in a way that mark it out as sacred space. The Bethlehem people warehouse left all to be desired, to my mind.

At least for sports addicts, it was over in time to get home and watch the Rugby international match. Pity Wales lost. That will depress morale even more. Let's hope that the diocesan prayer vigil in the Cathedral from Sunday evening to Monday evening will prove to be an antidote, a ray of divine light in present gathering gloom.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A journey without shortcuts

Ever since I heard Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks preach at the opening of the new Cardiff synagogue two years ago, I have been a fan of his. While I have yet to make sufficient time to read any of his books, I take great pleasure in hearing him on '
Thought for the Day'.

His reflection on Jewish New Year last week was notable enough to include in the Spiritual Capital Blog. This Wednesday, he spoke about Sukkot, the celebration in which Jewish families erect improvised shelters and live outdoors for a week, in remembrance of the forty years spent wandering in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. Not such a penance to perform in Israel/Palestine at this time of year, maybe, but somewhat more challenging if it rains a lot and the seasonal average temperatures are starting to drop, as it does here. In these circumstances it is more of an expression of solidarity with the homeless and disposessed. He reflects :-

"It's easy to celebrate sudden deliverance, the dates every nation has inscribed in its database of memory; the day the war was won, or the walls came down, or the tyrant was deposed. It's much rarer to remember the long journey with all its disappointments and defeats, setbacks and wrong turnings, the story not of miracles but of human endurance and the courage to keep going even when the promised land is not in sight. Freedom is a journey across the wilderness with no shortcuts. And that unspectacular story of human spirit is what Sukkot represents."

He goes on to think about the Burmese people's current revolt against military dictatorship, and how many years some Burmese have continued to resist oppression, with inadequate recognition or support from the international community. '....a journey across the wilderness with no shortcuts' he says - the struggle of the human spirit to attain justice and freedom. It goes on all over the place, in social and political movements, also in human hearts striving to know what is worth valuing and living for, and summoning the will to strive for its attainment.

It think of the tragic figures of drug addicted beggars I see around the streets - a reproach to our consumer society, also an embarrasment, as nobody knows what to do with them or how to help them in a way that makes a clear difference. Or, if anyone knows a solution, it fails to become an effective priority in public life. How we deal with citizens at the bottom of the heap, who have fallen out of society, trapped in destructive ways of life abusing themselves and others through their criminal acts is an indicator of the kind of society we are. As it is, the police and the courts fail to deal constructivey with them, the social services are limited to performing a holding operation because their powers are limited by the policies of the judiciary, but shaped by national politics and economics. The sufferers are truly in the wilderness, and so too are those who see the need and are unable to help.

To set our culture and society free from drug and alcohol dependency is a long hard journey we've hardly begun. For a lucky few there may be an exodus, and new beginning, but many more are stuck, and the complexity of their personal problems is such that they are likely to remain stuck. And I too feel stuck because I cannot see any useful contribution I can make to opening up the path to freedom

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A very varied Saturday

St John's Heritage Open day yesterday took place two weeks later than other locally advertised open days, largely due to our need to combine this with the annual Friends festival. Unfortunately we miss out on publicity. Heritage Open Day Organisers suggest using any one of three Saturdays in September, but put all their energies into promoting the first Saturday only. They seem to have a thing or two to learn about sustaining their own initiatives. Nevertheless, we had a steady stream of visitors during the day, to look around and climb the tower, with several church members on hand to answer questions. Philip, our organist, welcomed a dozen members of the Herefordshire organists association for a talk, demonstration and tryout of the 'Willis'.

The city centre was pretty crowded, partly due to the influx of Indian visitors from all over Britain, gathering to celebrate the Cardiff Swaminarayan Hindu Temple's silver jubilee of foundation. The community organised a festal procession from City Hall to the Temple in Grangetown, and there were over two thousand people of all ages walking through the streets accompanying a 'chariot of the gods', a mobile throne for the retinue of their head swami, visiting from India, plus several vehicles for groups of musicians singing bhajans.

I've never seen so many sari-clad women (young and old) in my life - mostly in blue or turquiose - beautiful looking people, full of joy and dignity. Different Temple communities produced large teams of young men or women dancing a simple step and accompanying themselves with percussion. Several Hindus who are prominent police officers were in evidence, and a police silver band headed up with procession, along with horses and motorcycle outriders. What was most impresssive was the complete absence of alcohol consumption - bottled water only provided - and yet the event was very exuberant. It was equally fascinating to observe to reactions of shoppers to this street stopping celebration, varying from bewilderment to fascination to annoyance at the interruption of progress by the procession. A moment to savour.

We had to leave the Friends AGM early, as we had tickets for the opera, which started early. We managed to install ourselves in our seats with just five minutes in hand before the first performance of James McMullen's 'The Sacrifice'. It was a powerful thought provoking experience, both musically and theatrically. I hope it gets the critical praise it deserves. We learned from the programme notes that the author is a Catholic. At the first interval, I realised on the way out to the bar that Archbishop Peter Smith, an occasional visitor to St John's in his capacity as a Prelate of the Order of St John, was sitting close by in the same row..He said it was his first opera visit in many years.. I wondered if he had found it as thought provoking as I did, but I didn't get the chance to ask him at the end, as he left before we did. It will certainly keep me going for a while.

Often I come away from an opera with lots to think about, as a result of something in the story-line or the way the text has been interpreted or presented. Would that the same could be said of church services I've attended.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Back in the swing

I'm feeling thankful that the road to recovery after surgery has been undramatic, steady daily improvement. The single stitch was removed by the the GP's cheery practice Nurse on Monday, and I was able to resume celebrating the Eucharist on Wednesday with no discomfort or fatigue.
Yesterday, I had both a Eucharist and a Wedding to celebrate, one after the other, followed by a long four hour wedding banquet, all of which didn't leave me feeling wrecked. Today the doc gave his approval to my continuing to 'take it easy' and continue at work officially. Archdeacon Bill popped in to see me at home after the Eucharist, to complete with me the appropriate 'return to work' form required by the new employment regulations. I felt sorry for him having to frame his obvious pastoral interest with paperwork.

I was out for a walk when a concerned call came from the Representative Body about St James' - apparently rough sleepers have installed themselves - a recipe for disaster given the shortage of uncontrolled places for the cities' feral druggies and alkies to shelter since the city centre car parks have been demolished. I just hope they are able to get on top of the problem quickly, before it is burned down or rendered un-saleable. I confess I am relieved that the building is no longer the responsiblity of myself or the Parish Wardens, though I can't help being troubled by this turn of events.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A noteworthy festivity

This afternoon we took baby Jasmine to Penarth, to enjoy the sunshine, and a walk on the pier for an hour. On the journey home we ran into road closures due to the end of the rugby international at the Millennium Stadium, requiring a diversion of our route home via Grangetown.

For the first time I caught a glimpse from Clare Road of the newly erected domes of the Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir in Merches Gardens, so we drove around to take a look.

The street was a hive a activity, as young men festooned the street in front of the building with coloured bunting, suspended from the facade of the building to create a festal canopy. It all looked so magnificent in the early evening light, and so I heaved myself out of the car, camera at the ready and took several shots of the building and the activity around it.

I was greeted by Sanjay, a young man responsible for public relations, and he was keen to tell me all about the week of celebrations about to start, with the arrival of the head Swami of the Swaminarayan 'sect' (as they call it themselves) from India, to preside over celebrations which will include worship, social activities, and a big public procession through the streets from City Hall to Merches Gardens next Saturday.

There has been a Hindu community with its own place of worship in Cardiff now for thirty years, and this is the silver jubilee of its formal existence. They are well established and contribute significantly, as do Muslim and Christian Indians, to the life of the city. Would that this were better recognised. I hope they get a good representation of guests to appreciate their welcome. They deserve it. There are several thousand Hindus in South Wales, of all ages, for whom this next week will be an important one. I'm so glad for them that the weather is set to be something of an Indian Summer.

Archbishop Rowan on 'defence of faith'

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been forthright in his advocacy of the traditional role of the Monarch in relation to the establishment of the Church of England, through an interview for the Daily Telegraph, summarised by the BBC News website, reminding the world that the future King, as Head of State inherits the historic role of Defender of the (Christian) Faith, as Head of the Church of England.

This doesn't preclude the Monarch acting as defender of Faith(s), for the head of State is the one in whose name all laws are made, promulgated and enforced. The law of the land is already clear in defending peoples' freedom to believe what they will, to openly discuss and practice matters of faith, outlawing discrimination and persecution on religious grounds, outlawing incitement to hatred, effectively obliging law-abiding citizens to be at least tolerant in behaviour, whatever they think. The Monarch's secular role thus obliges defence of people's freedom to practice a life of faith of any and every kind, provided that practice does no harm to others. Is that as far as the Monarch can or should go?

Rowan Williams has stated a clear position, and it won't be long before the polished advocates of secular atheism rise indignantly, crying out against State privilege accorded to the minority of citizens (in their opinons, according to their statistics) who adhere to a religious faith.

Even among religious people there are many who favour Church disestablishment, including the Archbishop (unless he has changed his mind of late). But whatever his personal opinion he is, by virtue of his office, the guardian of our socio-political heritange, and reminding us, as a good pastor should, that none of this can just be swept away when it no longer appears to enjoy much public support, without inflicting serious damage on the nation.

The high principles of the law of the land always need implementing. This leaves lots of room for activities ranging from excessive zeal, to virtual neglect. If the Monarch wishes to encourage 'defence of faith', what better benchmark could there be for this than considerate compromise, tolerance, moderation and respect, characteristic of the CofE at its best.

Evidently, these values can never be taken for granted in society, nor can they be enforced. But they can be upheld, and their adoption can be persuaded and encouraged by a Monarch who is both head of Church and State, as the Queen has demonstrated so well throughout her long right. If this tradition ceased to be followed, it would be necessary to think long and hard before any action to replace the status quo. Secular republican models, whether French or American, despite their high ideals, leave much to be desired.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Home again, recuperating

Two days in hospital, two days staying with old friends in Beaconsfield, now finally home again to a not very large pile of mail, thankfully, and zero messages (the answering marchine was left switched off), allowing a little breathing space, and time to adjust. I'm grateful to have come through my modest surgical intervention without huge pain and discomfort, and I notice improvements in my mobility during each day. People have told me not to overdo it - heavens, even the Bishop has hold me not to overdo it! I understand why. Most of the impact of surgery is internal, and not always immediately felt. Overdoing activity can result in inflammation causing discomfort. Standing for too long causes the wounded area to heat up. Ignore, and it becomes stiff and painful. It pays to listen to the body, and accept and enjoy passivity, well, physical passivity. Can't stop the thoughts moving, and fortunately writing places no stress on my operated area. So this enforced time off is hardly a penance, atthough not being able to ride the bike for a month is real withdrawal of pleasure.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nine eleven remembered

Well, I expected to be away from a computer for the inside of a week, as this is down time for me,in St Luke's Hospital for the Clergy in London, for a hernia repair. St Luke's has been totally overhauled, however, and each bed has its own thin client system, delivering radio TV and Internet services. The touchscreen virtual keyboard is not wonderful, but adequate to email the kids, and surf for news.

TV, since my admission on Sunday evening, has had a rash of programmes on 9/11, including Michael Moore's polemic documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, last night. It's been good to have something to occupy my mind, useful for dealing with the pain, and staying relaxed in the empty hours, except for the annoyance when web mail keels over and refuses to send, and loses the message! Still, it's a unique opportunity to practice patience as well as be a patient.

I remember well where I was on 11th September 2001, when I first saw/heard the news of the first plane collision with the W.T.C. We were living in Monaco, and it was a hot clear sunny afternoon, with not much to do. I switched on shortly after the first collision had been reported, and sensed this was going to be a world shaking event, and not just a tragic accident. I remembered the earlier failed attack on the W.T.C, and even then thought - this is the shape of things to come.

I kept vigil in font of the screen for a couple of hours, and then stated to work out what to do. That week, the church was kept pen for prayer, and I stayed round it for counselling opportunities. Few people came, a couple of dozen during the week. We held a special service, which was not hugely well attended, despite the number of Americans in the Principality. Once it was clear what had happened, people worried a lot more than they prayed.

Having time to reflect, and catch up on my memories of the event during my enforced idleness here - to hear stories I missed at the time - has been valuable. I just can't help wondering what the past six years of history might have brought us, if others than the Bush mafia had held the reins of power. So many hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths at American hands might not have occurred, with a wiser, less corrupt leadership holding the world together.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Images from the past

Fifteen months after purchase, I finally got around to unpacking and installing a scanner that scans slides and photo negatives a couple of days ago. I bought it not long after Rachel's wedding, meaning to start the task of producing a digital archive of family photographs, but never felt well enough to get to grips with the project. We have thousands of hardcopy images from the sixties to the end 2000. I bought my first digital camera in 2001.

In one of the containers where I keep my travel photos, I found some loose negatives and slides that were dirty and scratched, dating back to the early seventies. There were pictures of Clare and I with Katherine and Rachel, both under three, that someone with us had taken and passed on to us. We couldn't afford much photography in those days. Two pictures in particular we could date back to the summer of 1968. That famous 'Summer of Love' we spent, a second year running, back-packing in Crete.

The first year we met an olive farmer, Yanni Moutakis, who befriended us gave us hospitality. The photos were of him, smiling and giving a thumbs-up, and of us with him and his mother and the wife of our companion on the second occasion, Sylvia. Her husband Laurie, a fellow student took the photo slides, and thanks to the scanner they came back to life again on my computer screen some thirty nine years later.

The first year, we stayed a week, the second time a fortnight on his farm. I was bearded, but not yet long haired, nor attired as a hippie, though we knew all the Beatles songs - let's face it, we were both pretty 'straight'. I was studying Greek, being at St Michael's Theological College Llandaff, and taking an interest in Orthodoxy. Clare was much more confident than I was about communicating, using the only Greek phrasebook available to travellers in those days. That was fine for Yanni. Despite language limitations he knew who we were as a young married couple. I was the 'theologos apo Galles', so we were welcome guests at Betrothal and Baptism celebrations in mountain villages, and attended the usual Sunday Liturgy in the local parish church, not to mention the Feasts of the Transfiguration (our wedding anniversary) and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, both occasions of local village 'festas'.

Every social gathering was a family event, accompanied by wild Cretan music and dancing, in which we endeavoured to join - Clare excelling herself in an emulation of the Highland Fling to a hot Cretan dance called the Sousta, meriting the smashing of many plates beneath her feet. We were the only foreign visitors, and their hearts opened to us. In that Year of the Colonels' time of dictatorship, friends from outside meant something to the older people who'd fought for their freedom. There was freshly killed and roasted lamb, cucumber and feta cheese and much, in retrospect, horrid pink local wine to wash it down with. Not a bottle of lager in sight, and the water was cool pure, straight from mountainside wells.

Yanni took us out and about to visit Moni Arkadi, now a famous tourist site, then a simple monastery with a story to tell about resistance to the Nazi occupation, 25 years earlier. We met monks who had helped the partisans, if not actually been partisans, and we learned to drink Raki, and survive. On one occasion he took us to a photographer, and we were invited to robe in Cretan national costume for a formal photo. That black and white image still sits on the window shelf in the lounge, as it has done wherever we've gone in the years since it was taken. Most who don't know its story don't recognise us, posing therein as warrior and maiden.

When we returned to Crete after a 25 year absence, we went looking for Yanni. We found that the tiny hamlet of Platanos outside Rethymnon on the north central coast of the island was now a small town, with a substantial holiday complex attached to it - Village Moutakis. We asked around and found that Nicos, Yanni's brother ran a hotel with a bar near what had been the bus stop in the village where Yanni had first greeted us in his inimitable broken English: "Goodbye, you must be Eeenglish, come stay with me."

Here we learned that Yanni had died young in the early eighties, having worked with the family to take the village from peasant subsistence farming to a sound place in the island's international tourism economy. He took us to see Yanni's tomb, also to see the farmhouse where Laurie had snapped Mama, Yanni, Sylvia, Clare and I, with a huge green mound of freshly picked bamias (okra) taking pride of place in the foreground.

Sadly, with the onset of children and decades of economy camping holidays, our hoped for return was over-long delayed. We lost touch, as Yanni didn't have enough English to reply to our letters, and must have been busy anyway, developing his land and his community, to have time to think of us, although he did once send us a large can of olives as a present, and a much treasured reel tape of Cretan music, which made it to cassette and then to CD. For years it was the only 'foreign' music we played, reminding us of adventures which opened us to Europe and initiated us into the way meetings and hospitality influenced the way we live, right down to today. Our lives owe so much gratitude to that big hearted man who befriended us. It's hard to believe that it's already forty years ago last month since we first met.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Inspirational leadership

BBC Radio Four's programme 'The Choice' this morning interviewed Laurence Anthony, the South African Game Reserve director who took himself to Baghdad in the wake of the US invasion force in a quest to do what he could to rescue and animals in the zoo. He recalled the loss of the entire zoo population in Kuwait when it was invaded, as also happened in Berlin when it fell in 1945, and Dresden (presumably in the dreadful firestorm, a few months earlier). No provision for animal welfare was included in the Iraq invasion plan, needless to say. Of 650 animals in the Baghdad zoo, some three dozen of the larger animals had survived barely a week without food and water, imprisoned by their cages. The zoo also suffered from stray bombs. The condition of the creatures was so pitiful that he was ready to shoot them and put them out of their misery. However, the chief animal keeper turned up and wept with gratitude that someone had come with money and veterinary first aid resources in the nick of time. Some else cared. That was enough.

Together with a handful of assistant keepers, they worked to save the remaining animals, and were completely successful. Within weeks they had set about rebuilding damaged enclosures with US military help. Volunteers started to appear, including off-duty US soldiers, fighting by day, shovelling manure by night, alongside them Republican Guard deserters, and ordinary citizens. The US military governor fortunately understood the value of rebuilding the zoo and keeping it open as an amenity for all to appreciate and benefit from, so at least in one corner of that strife torn city, a peace project was born, around caring for animals.

It's a striking story of determination and courageous leadership by one man prepared to risk himself for the stricken animals in a situation where nobody else had really considered they were anything other than expendable 'collateral damage' caused by war - like so many poor people who also end up at the wrong place at the wrong time. The interviewer pushed him on the question of justifying his action when there was also so much human suffering crying out for attention in the same conditions. He had no answer, apart from saying quite unsentimentally: "I just did what I felt I had to do."

As a game park warden his entire existence revolves around wild animal husbandry. He even admitted to hating zoos, yet he gave everything he could to rescue a zoo from destruction, for the sake of the animals there. As he spoke, I couldn't help thinking how wars, for whatever purpose they are fought, have no regard for life of any kind. The destruction they cause shows how the fates of humans, animals and the environment sustaining us all are all inextricably linked with each other.

As soon as fighting paused in Southern Iraq, Marsh Arab community members returned to areas drained of water by Saddam's ecocidal policy directed at this group of political opponents, and breached the dykes allowing water to return to where it had been the source of life and economy for an entire culture for several millennia. Much had been destroyed but in a few areas marshland is recovering and its bio-diversity slowly returning. How much the healing of the wounds of war relies upon the vision and brave leadership of a few, who are willing to set the tone for renewal even before the guns have been silenced.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Installing Cardiff's bell

In a special extra service this morning for members of the United Services Mess, Commander Mike Beardall the last captain of HMS Cardiff formally handed over the Ship's Bell to St John's for safekeeping. It was a splendid occasion, graced by the presence of crew members from HMS Cambria in uniform, former Cardiff crew and mess members, wearing their medals or in uniform. There were over ninety people present with the choir. The sun shone, and everyone enjoyed themselves. At the 9h30 Eucharist we had the largest congregation (just over fifty adults and children altogether) we've had over the summer months - and all this despite road closures all around the city centre which made it especially difficult for people to find their several ways into church.

The road closures on this occasion were occasioned by more modificatory work on the junction in front of the Castle. Some closure notices were erected a week in advance on main routes into the city, but these were not a model of clarity. If there was other publicity in the press, it didn't stop many people from being caught out by the road closures, including me. In the morning I went in by bike and simply didn't notice which roads were shut off, because that didn't affect my route into the city centre. For the evening service, since it started to rain as a made ready to leave, and I was pretty tired having already done four services earlier, I decided to take the car. The road closures were still in force, and the five minute journey took me twenty minutes. Just as well I left as early as I did, or I'd have been the last one in, of a congregation of a dozen.